Friday, February 28, 2014


The Groaning Tree of Baddesley

In 1964 Donald Rusk Currey cut down a bristlecone pine that was older than the pyramids of Egypt, so that he could determine its age by counting its rings. Here is another example of arboricide committed in the name of science, from William Gilpin (1724-1804), Remarks on Forest Scenery, Vol. I (London: R. Blamire, 1791), pp. 162-164 (spelling etc. as in the original):
The next tree I shall exhibit from New-forest, is the groaning-tree of Badesly; a village about two miles from Lymington. The history of the groaning-tree is this. About forty years ago, a cottager, who lived near the centre of the village, heard frequently a strange noise, behind his house, like that of a person in extreme agony. Soon after, it caught the attention of his wife, who was then confined to her bed. She was a timorous woman, and being greatly alarmed, her husband endeavoured to persuade her, that the noise she heard, was only the bellowing of the stags in the forest. By degrees, however, the neighbours, on all sides heard it; and the thing began to be much talked of. It was by this time plainly discovered, that the groaning noise proceeded from an elm, which grew at the end of the garden. It was a young, vigorous tree; and to all appearance perfectly sound.

In a few weeks the fame of the groaning tree was spread far and wide; and people from. all parts flocked to hear it. Among others it attracted the curiosity of the late prince, and princess of Wales, who resided, at that time, for the advantage of a sea-bath, at Pilewell, the seat of Sir James Worsley, which stood within a quarter of a mile of the groaning tree.

Tho the country people assigned many superstitious causes for this strange phenomenon, the naturalist could assign no physical one, that was in any degree satisfactory. Some thought, it was owing to the twisting and friction of the roots. Others thought it proceeded from water, which had collected in the body of the tree—or perhaps from pent air. But no cause that was alledged, appeared equal to the effect. In the mean time, the tree did not always groan; sometimes disappointing it's visitants: yet no cause could be assigned for it's temporary cessations, either from seasons, or weather. If any difference was observed; it was thought to groan least, when the weather was wet; and most when it was clear, and frosty: but the found at all times seemed to arise from the root.

Thus the groaning tree continued an object of astonishment, during the space of eighteen, or twenty months, to all the country around; and for the information of distant parts a pamphlet was drawn up, containing a particular account of all the circumstances relating to it.

At length, the owner of it, a gentleman of the name of Forbes, making too rash an experiment to discover the cause, bored a hole in it's trunk. After this it never groaned. It was then rooted up, with a further view to make a discovery: but still nothing appeared, which led to any investigation of the cause. It was universally however believed, that there was no trick in the affair: but that some natural cause really existed, tho never understood.
By the way, the earliest example of the word English word arboricide occurs in the context of counting tree rings. See Asa Gray (1810-1888), "The Longevity of Trees," North American Review, Vol. 59, No. 124 (July 1844) 189-238, rpt. in Scientific Papers of Asa Gray, Vol. II: Essays; Biographical Sketches: 1841-1886 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1889), pp. 71-124 (at 84):
[T]he age may be directly ascertained by counting the annual rings on a cross section of the trunk. The record is sometimes illegible or nearly so, but it is perfectly authentic; and when fairly deciphered, we may rely on its correctness. But the venerable trunks, whose ages we are most interested in determining, are rarely sound to the centre; and if they were, even the paramount interests of science would seldom excuse the arboricide.



Widely Read and Thoughtful Men

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Old Calabria (1915; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1938), pp. 44-45 (from chapter V):
One is astonished how large a literature has grown up around this small place—but indeed, the number of monographs dealing with every one of these little Italian towns is a ceaseless source of surprise. Look below the surface and you will find, in all of them, an undercurrent of keen spirituality—a nucleus of half a dozen widely read and thoughtful men, who foster the best traditions of the mind. You will not find them in the town council or at the café. No newspapers commend their labours, no millionaires or learned societies come to their assistance, and though typography is cheap in this country, they often stint themselves of the necessities of life in order to produce these treatises of calm research. There is a deep gulf, here, between the mundane and the intellectual life. These men are retiring in their habits; and one cannot but revere their scholarly and almost ascetic spirit that survives like a green oasis amid the desert of 'politics,' roguery and municipal corruption.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Religion and Politics

James Hurnard (1808-1881), The Setting Sun (London: F. Bowyer Kitto, 1870), p. 168 (Book IV, lines 500-507), rpt. in James Hurnard: A Victorian Character. Being Passages from The Setting Sun. Selected and Arranged by G. Rostrevor Hamilton (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1946), p. 50:
O why should sacred things and holy truth
Be tarnished by the touch of politics,
Dragging consistency knee-deep through mire?
Has not religion strength enough of limb
To walk alone without securely grasping
The strong but baneful arm of temporal power?
And must the secular State convert religion
Into a subtle engine of support?
Related post: I Cannot Gulp It.


How to Praise the Gods

Quintilian 3.7.7-8 (tr. Donald A. Russell):
With gods, in general, the first thing will be to show veneration of the majesty of their nature; next to expound the power of each and discoveries of his which have benefited humanity. "Power" will be displayed: for example, in Jupiter, the power of universal rule; in Mars, the power of war; and in Neptune, control of the sea. Inventions will be shown too: the arts for Minerva, letters for Mercury, medicine for Apollo, crops for Ceres, wine for Bacchus. Next we must mention any exploits of theirs known to history. Even gods derive honour from parents—a son of Jupiter for example—and from age—for example, those descended from Chaos—and also from their offspring: Apollo and Diana do credit to Latona.

verum in deis generaliter primum maiestatem ipsius eorum naturae venerabimur, deinde proprie vim cuiusque et inventa quae utile aliquid hominibus attulerint. vis ostendetur, ut in Iove regendorum omnium, in Marte belli, in Neptuno maris: inventa, ut artium in Minerva, Mercurio litterarum, medicinae Apolline, Cerere frugum, Libero vini. tum si qua ab iis acta vetustas tradidit, commemoranda. addunt etiam dis honorem parentes, ut si quis sit filius Iovis, addit antiquitas, ut iis qui sunt ex Chao, progenies quoque, ut Apollo ac Diana Latonae.


Hymns to Diana

Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), in The Phoenix Nest (London: John Jackson, 1593), p. 69:
Praisd be Dianas faire and harmles light,
Praisd be the dewes, wherwith she moists the ground;
Praisd be hir beames, the glorie of the night,
Praisd be hir powre, by which all powres abound.

Praisd be hir Nimphes, with whom she decks the woods,
Praisd be hir knights, in whom true honor liues,
Praisd be that force, by which she moves the floods,
Let that Diana shine, which all these giues.

In heaven Queene she is among the spheares,
In ay she Mistres like makes all things pure,
Eternitie in hir oft chaunge she beares,
She beautie is, by hir the faire endure.

Time weares hir not, she doth his chariot guide,
Mortalitie belowe hir orbe is plaste,
By hir the vertue of the starrs downe slide,
In hir is vertues perfect image cast.

    A knowledge pure it is hir worth to kno,
    With Circes let them dwell that thinke not so.
Ben Jonson (1572-1637), The Fountaine of Selfe-Love. Or Cynthias Revels (London: Walter Burre, 1601), Act V, Scene 1:
Qveene and Huntresse, chaste, and fayre,
Now the Sunne is layde to sleepe,
Seated, in thy siluer Chayre,
State in wonted maner keepe:
    Hesperus intreats thy light,
    Goddesse excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy enuious shade
Dare it selfe to interpose;
Cynthias shining Orbe was made
Heauen to cleare, when day did close:
    Blesse vs then with wished sight,
    Goddesse excellently bright.

Lay thy Bowe of Pearle apart.
And thy Christall-shining Quiuer;
Give vnto the flying Hart,
Space to breath, how short soeuer.
    Thou, that makst a day of night,
    Goddesse excellently Bright.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I Cannot Help My Bad Taste

Cyrus Redding (1785-1870), Fifty Years' Recollections, Literary and Personal, with Observations on Men and Things, 2nd ed., Vol. I (London: Charles J. Skeet, 1858), pp. 45-46:
The superiority of metropolitan society cannot be disputed, and its more enlarged and liberal modes of thinking and acting; but neither then nor now, had I or have I, any affection for blackened brick walls, interminable streets, rattling vehicles, howling costermongers, wretchedness, poverty, and vice, made more deplorable and vicious by close contact with dissipation, wealth, and luxury. The shady side of a wood in summer, a mountain-top, or the ocean-shore, the lodge in some irriguous valley by the dashing stream for me, before the architectual [sic] extravagances of Buckingham House, or the plaistered mansions and empty show of Belgravia. This may be want of taste for what the hour may deem superlative things; I cannot help my bad taste.


Enough's a Feast

Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), in Orlando Gibbons, The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612), nos. iii-vi, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), pp. 97-98 (line numbers added):
I weigh not fortune's frown nor smile,
   I joy not much in earthly joys,
I seek not state, I reck not style,
   I am not fond of fancy's toys.
I rest so pleased with what I have,        5
I wish no more, no more I crave.

I tremble not at noise of war,
   I quake not at the thunder's crack,
I shrink not at a blazing star,
   I sound not at the news of wrack.        10
I fear no loss, I hope no gain,
I envy none, I none disdain.

I see ambition never pleased,
   I see some Tantals starve in store,
I see gold's dropsy seldom eased,        15
   I see each Midas gape for more.
I neither want nor yet abound,
Enough's a feast, content is crowned.

I feign not friendship where I hate,
   I fawn not on the great for grace,        20
I prize, I praise a mean estate,
   Ne yet too lofty nor too base.
This, this is all my choice, my cheer,
A mind content, and conscience clear.
This recalls a poem attributed to Edward Dyer.

Some notes:

2 I joy not much in earthly joys: cf. Dyer 1 (I joy not in no earthly bliss)
3 style: "A legal, official, or honorific title" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 18.a)
10 sound: swoon, faint (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. sound, v.4)
14 Tantals starve in store: people like Tantalus starve amidst plenty
15 gold's dropsy: Physicians thought that sufferers from dropsy were always thirsty, and that drinking did nothing to alleviate their thirst and in fact made their condition worse. Naturally this led to a comparison between avarice (a disease of the soul) and dropsy (a disease of the body). See Avarice and Dropsy.
17 I neither want nor yet abound: cf. Dyer 18 (I feel no want, nor have too much)
19 I feign not friendship where I hate: cf. Dyer 14 (I feign not love where most I hate)
23 This, this is all my choice: cf. Dyer 23 (This is my choice)

There is a performance of Gibbon's madrigal by Tessa Bonner and the Rose Consort of Viols here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Watch Your Eyebrows

Quintilian 1.11.10 (tr. Donald A. Russell):
The forehead can go wrong in many ways. I have seen many who raised their eyebrows at every effort of their voice, others whose brows were always bent, others again who could not keep them level, one making its way to the top of the head, and the other almost covering the eye itself.

nam frons pluribus generibus peccat. vidi multos quorum supercilia ad singulos vocis conatus adlevarentur, aliorum constricta, aliorum etiam dissidentia, cum alterum in verticem tenderet, altero paene oculus ipse premeretur.

Monday, February 24, 2014


In Praise of the Athenians

Euripides, Medea 824-834 (tr. David Kovacs):
From ancient times the sons of Erechtheus have been favored; they are children of the blessed gods sprung from a holy land never pillaged by the enemy. They feed on wisdom most glorious, always stepping gracefully through the bright air, where once, they say, the nine Pierian Muses gave birth to fair-haired Harmonia.

Ἐρεχθεΐδαι τὸ παλαιὸν ὄλβιοι
καὶ θεῶν παῖδες μακάρων, ἱερᾶς        825
χώρας ἀπορθήτου τ᾽ ἄπο, φερβόμενοι
κλεινοτάταν σοφίαν, αἰεὶ διὰ λαμπροτάτου
βαίνοντες ἁβρῶς αἰθέρος, ἔνθα ποθ᾽ ἁγνὰς        830
ἐννέα Πιερίδας Μούσας λέγουσι
ξανθὰν Ἁρμονίαν φυτεῦσαι.
Donald J. Mastronarde on ἀπορθήτου (line 826):
'unconquered' alludes to the claim that unlike almost all other Greek communities the Athenians were never forced by invaders to abandon their original homeland or accept the domination of immigrant groups (Thuc. 1.2.1, 1.2.5).



Patrick Leigh-Fermor (1915-2011), "The Strange Case of the Swabian Poet," Words of Mercury (London: John Murray, 2004), pp. 202-206 (at 205):
After all, not every millionaire was an illiterate philistine.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Emphasis on Individuality

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Looking Back: An Autobiographical Excursion (London: Chatto and Windus, 1934), pp. 508-509 (on Professor Franz Leydig):
What chiefly impressed me in Leydig was his 'strong emphasis on individuality.' Thus I phrased it. He was interested in differences of character between animals of the same species, and observed such differences not only among his dogs but among the pet birds and reptiles which he kept. Individuality, he thought, should be fostered and not repressed. All scholastic institutions, as at present conducted, made for repression of character. He asked me: 'Are you going to some University afterwards?' I said I had not made up my mind. 'Let me beg you to avoid it if you can. It may ruin your individuality. Universities are downright monstrosities.'

Universitäten sind wahre Monstrositäten. This pronouncement coming from a University Professor, and one so venerable, gave me food for thought.
Id., p. 510:
His 'emphasis on individuality' fell on fertile soil. He supplied me with a formula for avoiding those flat lands of life where men absorb each others' habits and opinions to such an extent that nothing is left save a herd of flurried automata.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Campo Alegre, Scholar and Man of the World

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Looking Back: An Autobiographical Excursion (London: Chatto and Windus, 1934), pp. 458-459:
How well I remember the sitting-room in his apartment on the Fontanka canal! It looked out upon the sluggish and discoloured water, and the furniture and other inanimate objects scattered about, their nature and disposition, gave you a hint of the uncommon personality of their owner. Campo Alegre, scholar and man of the world, impressed his character on all he possessed and all he said. Or so it seemed to me. I reckon him among the best friends I have had. He belonged to an almost forgotten race, the humanist; the man of boundless curiosity and boundless tolerance—of that tolerance which derives from satisfied curiosity, and can derive from nothing else. Humani nihil alienum....

Here were books, abundance of them, which he carried from one end of the world to another—the great writers of all ages, the real writers; for Campo Alegre had no sympathy for the commonplace, the mediocre, in literature or in anything else. Life was too short, he used to say, for anything but the best. On the other hand, he would add, he had enjoyed life; he had taken it by the throat and made it yield every pleasure, legitimate or otherwise, which it had to offer. The civilized attitude! Your vulgarian cannot achieve this point of view. For all his effrontery he is a slave—a slave to his own poor soul, to a thousand prejudices and taboos.


I went to see him for a farewell visit on that gloomy November afternoon in 1896, the day before I left Russia for good. As I rose to depart he said:

'Perhaps you'll accept this as a keepsake?' and he gave me a ring, a cabochon sapphire which he always wore. 'And—ah! I should like you to have one of my books as well. It may remind you of this room. Here is a small one. It will go into your pocket; it has often gone into mine: Petrarca's de remediis utriusque Fortunae—a worthless Rotterdam edition, you see, of 1649....Those who judge Petrarca by his sonnets—how little they know about him! To explore, like he did, a trackless world and rediscover the old make oneself lord of all the buried past....I don't think we realise in what a state of rapture those men must have lived....You'll glance into it sometimes?'

Ian Jackson writes:
The "worthless Rotterdam edition" of Petrarch that Count Campo Alegre gave him in 1896 re-surfaces in the Unprofessional Tales (1901) that Douglas published in collaboration with his wife as "Normyx". One of the short stories in that collection quotes two passages from Petrarch's de remediis utriusque Fortunae as an epigraph — an unusual choice, we may agree, and with an obvious source.


Two Poems by Tabito

Ōtomo no Tabito (665-731), translated by Paula Doe in A Warbler's Song in the Dusk: The Life and Work of Ōtomo Yakamochi (718-785) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), p. 34:
Instead of useless pondering,
Better to drink a cup
Of cheap wine.
Id., p. 36:
All who live
Die in the end—
So while we're in this world
Let's make merry.

Thursday, February 20, 2014



Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Looking Back: An Autobiographical Excursion (London: Chatto and Windus, 1934), pp. 298-299:
I have heard so much about science lately that I am tired of it, especially since the invention of wireless and our experiences in the Great War. Science behaves abominably nowadays. The deification of its appliances has filled our lunatic asylums with nervous wrecks. Listening-in, if conscientiously practised, engenders a brood of solemn idiots, not quite certifiable, yet barely to be distinguished from those others. In the shape of bio-chemistry it has cast a shadow over the world and made cowards of the bravest and the blithest; there never was a generation more scared of infections and of death. By the aid of science millions of the best of our race are annihilated in a moment; by its aid millions of the worst are artificially kept alive, when they should be allowed to die. Science, as here applied, makes for the survival of the unfittest. If it would turn its attention to inventing something sensible for a change—a decent dining-room table, for instance, under which it is possible to cross your legs...
"Listening-in" is "The action of listening to a radio broadcast..." (Oxford English Dictionary).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W.E.K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 93 (February 17, 1826):
It is the same with me in politics—in general I care very little about the matter and from year's end to year's end have scarce a thought connected with them except to laugh at the fools who think to make themselves great men out of little by swaggering in the rear of a party.


Ancient Polyglots

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 17.17 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Quintus Ennius used to say that he had three hearts, because he knew how to speak Greek, Oscan, and Latin. But Mithridates, the celebrated king of Pontus and Bithynia, who was overcome in war by Gnaeus Pompeius, was proficient in the languages of the twenty-five races which he held under his sway. He never spoke to the men of all those nations through an interpreter, but whenever it was necessary for him to address any one of them, he used his language and speech with as much skill as if he were his fellow-countryman.

Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret. Mitridates autem, Ponti atque Bithyniae rex inclutus, qui a Cn. Pompeio bello superatus est, quinque et viginti gentium quas sub dicione habuit linguas percalluit earumque omnium gentium viris haut umquam per interpretem conlocutus est, sed ut quemque ab eo appellari usus fuit, proinde lingua et oratione ipsius non minus scite quam si gentilis eius esset locutus est.


The Quiet Mind

William Byrd, Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs of Sadnes and Pietie (1588), no. xi, in English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes, 2nd ed. (1929; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), p. 34 (attributed to Edward Dyer):
I joy not in no earthly bliss;
   I force not Croesus' wealth a straw;
For care I know not what it is;
   I fear not Fortune's fatal law.
My mind is such as may not move
For beauty bright, nor force of love.

I wish but what I have at will;
   I wander not to seek for more;
I like the plain, I climb no hill;
   In greatest storms I sit on shore,
And laugh at them that toil in vain
To get what must be lost again.

I kiss not where I wish to kill;
   I feign not love where most I hate;
I break no sleep to win my will;
   I wait not at the mighty's gate.
I scorn no poor, nor fear no rich,
I feel no want, nor have too much.

The court and cart I like nor loathe;
   Extremes are counted worst of all;
The golden mean between them both
   Doth surest sit and fear no fall.
This is my choice; forwhy I find
No wealth is like the quiet mind.
2 force: Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. force, v.1, sense 14.a: "Chiefly in negative sentences...To attach force or importance to; to care for, regard; often with a strengthening phrase, as a bean, a pin, a straw."

Note the preponderance of monosyllabic words (only one disyllabic word among the forty-seven words of the third stanza).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Alumni of Dullheads' College

A.H. Bullen (1857-1920), "Hestiæus Ponticus," Weeping-Cross and other Rimes (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1921), p. 36:
Old Hestiæus, learned dunce,—
   (So Grecian gossips tell the story)
Through all his lifetime never once
   Saw the sun rise or set in glory:
Over his scrolls he'd constant pore
To pack his pate with curious lore.

Hail, sage of Pontus! you and I
   Were surely bred at Dullheads' College:
While the green light's in western sky,
   I'm searching books for useless knowledge!
And ah, how seldom have mine eyes
Beheld the glorious morning rise!
Athenaeus 6.273 d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
But the boast of Hestiaeus of Pontus, that he had never seen the sun rise or set because he was engaged in study all the time, is a noble one. This is recorded by Nicias of Nicaea in The Successions.
Related posts:
Hat tip: Stephen Pentz, for drawing my attention to Bullen's Weeping-Cross.


A Quaint Label

M.L. West, Hellenica: Selected Papers on Greek Literature and Thought, Vol. III: Philosophy, Music and Metre, Literary Byways, Varia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 485:
The book is only doing its best to reflect a traditional conception of 'the Classics'. But I for one wish that we did not still label ourselves with that quaint label, which seems to say to the world 'our study is concerned with the great writers who ought to form the basis of your education'. I wish we had a name corresponding to Altertumswissenschaft, that would strengthen the conception of the study of antiquity as a unity and as a science.


The Best Season

A friend of mine once won the Moomaw Oratorical Contest with a speech in which he argued that fall is the best season of the year. The debate is an old one. See Bion of Smyrna, fragment 3 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
Which will you have is sweetest, Myrson, spring, winter, autumn, or summer? which are you fainest should come? Summer, when all our labours are fulfilled, or sweet autumn when our hunger is least and lightest, or the winter when no man can work—for winter also hath delights for many with her warm firesides and leisure hours—or doth the pretty spring-time please you best? Say, where is the choice of your heart? To be sure, we have time and to spare for talking.

'Tis unseemly for mortal men to judge of the works of Heaven, and all these four are sacred, and every one of them sweet. But since you ask me, Cleodamus, I will tell you which I hold to be sweeter than the rest. I will not have your summer, for then the sun burns me; I will not have your autumn, neither, for that time o' year breeds disease; and as for your winter, he is intolerable; I cannot away with frost and snow. For my part, give me all the year round the dear delightful spring, when cold doth not chill nor sun burn. In the spring the world's a-breeding, in the spring the world’s all sweet buds, and our days are as long as our nights and our nights as our days...

Εἴαρος ὦ Μύρσων ἢ χείματος ἢ φθινοπώρω
ἢ θέρεος τί τοι ἁδύ; τί δὲ πλέον εὔχεαι ἐλθεῖν;
ἢ θέρος, ἁνίκα πάντα τελείεται ὅσσα μογεῦμες;
ἢ γλυκερὸν φθινόπωρον, ὅτ' ἀνδράσι λιμὸς ἐλαφρά;
ἢ καὶ χεῖμα δύσεργον; ἐπεὶ καὶ χείματι πολλοὶ
θαλπόμενοι θέλγονται ἀεργείᾳ τε καὶ ὄκνῳ·
ἤ τοι καλὸν ἔαρ πλέον εὔαδεν; εἰπέ, τί τοι φρήν
αἱρεῖται; λαλέειν γὰρ ἐπέτραπεν ἁ σχολὰ ἄμμιν.

κρίνειν οὐκ ἐπέοικε θεήια ἔργα βροτοῖσι·
πάντα γὰρ ἱερὰ ταῦτα καὶ ἁδέα· σεῦ δὲ ἕκατι
ἐξερέω Κλεόδαμε, τό μοι πέλεν ἅδιον ἄλλων.
οὐκ ἐθέλω θέρος ἦμεν, ἐπεὶ τόκα μ' ἅλιος ὀπτῇ.
οὐκ ἐθέλω φθινόπωρον, ἐπεὶ νόσον ὥρια τίκτει.
οὖλον χεῖμα φέρειν· νιφετὸν κρυμώς τε φοβεῦμαι.
εἶαρ ἐμοὶ τριπόθητον ὅλῳ λυκάβαντι παρείη,
ἁνίκα μήτε κρύος μήθ' ἅλιος ἄμμε βαρύνει.
εἴαρι πάντα κύει, πάντ' εἴαρος ἁδέα βλαστεῖ,
χἀ νὺξ ἀνθρώποισιν ἴσα καὶ ὁμοίιος ἀώς...
On this theme see H. Walther, Das Streitgedicht in der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters (1920), pp. 34-46 (Sommer und Winter), and M.L. West, "Near Eastern Material in Hellenistic and Roman Literature," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 73 (1969) 113-134 (at 120).

Karl Maurer writes: "[I]f this were a contest, my own vote for the best comparison of the seasons would go to Pushkin's 'Autumn'; there's a quiet beautiful translation of it by Peter France at"

Monday, February 17, 2014


Our National Language

Thomas Davis (1814-1845), excerpts from "Our National Language," in his Literary and Historical Essays (Dublin: James Duffy, 1846), pp. 173-182:
The language, which grows up with a people, is conformed to their organs, descriptive of their climate, constitution, and manners, mingled inseparably with their history and their soil, fitted beyond any other language to express their prevalent thoughts in the most natural and efficient way.

To impose another language on such a people is to send their history adrift among the accidents of translation—'tis to tear their identity from all places—'tis to substitute arbitrary signs for picturesque and suggestive names—'tis to cut off the entail of feeling, and separate the people from their forefathers by a deep gulf—'tis to corrupt their very organs, and abridge their power of expression.

The language of a nation's youth is the only easy and full speech for its manhood and for its age. And when the language of its cradle goes, itself craves a tomb.

What business has a Russian for the rippling language of Italy or India? How could a Greek distort his organs and his soul to speak Dutch upon the sides of the Hymettus, or the beach of Salamis, or on the waste where once was Sparta? And is it befitting the fiery, delicate-organed Celt to abandon his beautiful, tongue, docile and spirited as an Arab, "sweet as music, strong as the wave"—is it befitting in him to abandon this wild, liquid speech for the mongrel of a hundred breeds called English, which, powerful though it be, creaks and bangs about the Celt who tries to use it?


A people without a language of its own is only half a nation. A nation should guard its language more than its territories—'tis a surer barrier, and more important frontier, than fortress or river.


To lose your native tongue, and learn that of an alien, is the worst badge of conquest—it is the chain on the soul. To have lost entirely the national language is death; the fetter has worn through.


Nothing can make us believe that it is natural or honourable for the Irish to speak the speech of the alien, the invader, the Sassenagh tyrant, and to abandon the language of our kings and heroes. What! give up the tongue of Ollamh Fodhla and Brian Boru, the tongue of M'Carty, and the O'Nials, the tongue of Sarsfield's, Curran's, Mathew's, and O'Connell's boyhood, for that of Strafford and Poynings, Sussex, Kirk, and Cromwell!
Related post: We are Born Inside a Language.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Ancient Writers

George Kennedy, "Classical and Christian Source Criticism," in William O. Walker, Jr., ed., The Relationships Among the Gospels: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1978), pp. 125-155 (at 126):
[A]ncient writers sometimes meant what they said and occasionally even knew what they were talking about.



Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Gaspar Ruiz, chapter V:
"Every bullet has its billet," runs the proverb. All the merit of proverbs consists in the concise and picturesque expression. In the surprise of our minds is found their persuasiveness. In other words, we are struck and convinced by the shock.

What surprises us is the form, not the substance. Proverbs are art—cheap art. As a general rule they are not true; unless indeed they happen to be mere platitudes, as for instance the proverb, "Half a loaf is better than no bread," or "A miss is as good as a mile." Some proverbs are simply imbecile, others are immoral. That one evolved out of the naïve heart of the great Russian people, "Man discharges the piece, but God carries the bullet," is piously atrocious, and at bitter variance with the accepted conception of a compassionate God. It would indeed be an inconsistent occupation for the Guardian of the poor, the innocent and the helpless, to carry the bullet, for instance, into the heart of a father.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Ridiculous and Silly

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 15.30.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Those who approach the study of letters late in life, after they are worn out and exhausted by some other occupation, particularly if they are garrulous and of only moderate keenness, make themselves exceedingly ridiculous and silly by displaying their would-be knowledge.

qui ab alio genere vitae detriti iam et retorridi ad litterarum disciplinas serius adeunt, si forte idem sunt garruli natura et subargutuli, oppido quam fiunt in litterarum ostentatione inepti et frivoli.



A Dangerous Age

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 15.7.1-2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
It has been observed during a long period of human recollection, and found to be true, that for almost all old men the sixty-third year of their age is attended with danger, and with some disaster involving either serious bodily illness, or loss of life, or mental suffering. Therefore those who are engaged in the study of matters and terms of that kind call that period of life the climacteric.

observatum in multa hominum memoria expertumque est, senioribus plerisque omnibus sexagesimum tertium vitae annum cum periculo et clade aliqua venire aut corporis morbique gravioris aut vitae interitus aut animi aegritudinis. propterea, qui rerum verborumque istiusmodi studio tenentur eum aetatis annum appellant κλιμακτηρικόν.

Friday, February 14, 2014


The Old Sappho

Everyone is excited, and rightly so, about the new Sappho. But let's not forget about the old Sappho, in particular one of the first fragments ever printed, i.e. fragment 168b Voigt (tr. Kenneth Rexroth):
The moon has set,
And the Pleiades. It is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.
The Greek as preserved by Hephaestion:
δέδυκε μὲν ἁ σελάνα
καὶ πληϊάδες· μέσαι δὲ
νύκτες, πάρα δ' ἔρχεθ' ὥρα·
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.
On the fragment see Paula Reiner and David Kovacs, "ΔΕΔϒΚΕ ΜΕΝ Α ΣΕΛΑΝΝΑ: The Pleiades in Mid-Heaven (PMG Frag. Adesp. 976 = Sappho, Fr. 168 B Voigt)," Mnemosyne 46.2 (May, 1993) 145-159, who reconstruct it as follows (at 153):
δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα,
καὶ Πλείαδές <εἰσι> μέσσαι [δὲ],
νύκτος δὲ παρέρχετ' ὤρα.
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.
The reconstruction of Reiner and Kovacs could be translated thus (I borrow some of their phrasing from p. 154):
The moon has set,
And the Pleiades are in mid-heaven,
The night season is passing.
I sleep alone.

Thanks to Joel Eidsath for correcting a misprint in this post.


Another Book in a Tomb

J.B. Trapp, "Ovid's Tomb: The Growth of a Legend from Eusebius to Laurence Sterne, Chateaubriand and George Richmond," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 36 (1973) 35-76 (at 41-42):
In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, at least two and perhaps three accounts of the tomb, some including an epitaph, were current. The first occurs in the life prefixed to the short pseudo-Ovidian poem De Vetula.19 The manuscripts containing this life are all fourteenth-century. 'Recently,' says the anonymous author, 'there was discovered in a suburb of the city of Dioscori, capital of the kingdom of Colchis, when certain ancient pagan tombs were being removed from the public cemetery which is beside Tomis, one tomb among the rest, with an epitaph engraved on it in Armenian characters, of which the interpretation goes like this: "Hic iacet Ovidius ingeniosissimus poetarum". At the head of this tomb an ivory casket was found. In it, unconsumed by the ages, was a book. The local inhabitants, unable to read what was in it, sent it to Constantinople, where there were many "Latins". This happened in the time of Prince Vathasius, by whose command the book was handed over to Leo, Protonotary of the Sacred Palace and he, when he had read it over, published and distributed it in many countries.' The preface of 'Leo the Protonotary' adds that Ovid wrote this book when he was convinced that he would not be pardoned, and ordered that it should be hidden in his grave, so that, if only his bones were carried back to Rome, his book would return with them and his name live for ever.


The story of the book found in the far-off tomb, marvellously well preserved and written in a language which requires metropolitan scholarship for its interpretation, is a topos of medieval literature.23

19 Ed. P. Klopsch, Leiden-Cologne 1967 (Mittellateinische Studien und Texte, ii), p. 193; and ed. D. M. Robathan, The Ps.-Ovidian De vetula, Amsterdam 1968; and cf. Ghisalberti, p. 51.


23 P. Lehmann, Pseudo-antike Literatur des Mittelalters, Leipzig-Berlin 1927 (Studien der Bibliothek Warburg, xiii), pp. 13ff., De vetula, ed. Klopsch, 1967, pp. 22-35, 'Das Buch im Grab'; W. Speyer, Bücherfunde in der Glaubenswerbung der Antike, mit einem Ausblick auf Mittelalter und Neuzeit, Göttingen 1970 (Hypomnemata, xxiv), esp. pp. 102-3, with the literature there cited.
Needless to say, this story from the "Life of Ovid" is fiction, not fact.

Related post: Buried with Books.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Sylvan Happiness

John Aubrey (1626-1697), The Natural History of Wiltshire, ed. John Britton (London: J.B. Nichols and Son, 1847), pp. 107-108 (from Part II, Chapter VIII = The Downes):
[M]ethinkes he is much more happy in a wood that at ease contemplates the universe as his own, and in it the sunn and starrs, the pleasing meadows, shades, groves, green banks, stately trees, flowing springs, and the wanton windings of a river, fit objects for quiet innocence, than he that with fire and sword disturbs the world, and measures his possessions by the wast that lies about him.



Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964), Flowering Earth (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1939; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 13-14 (on his teachers at Harvard):
They brought discipline to cap the spouting of youthful convictions. They taught us to postpone judgments, to acknowledge mistakes, to mistrust your own work and give cordial credit to others, to assume nothing general from particular instance, to search for contrary evidence as if it were pearls, to walk all around a question, to define a problem, to finish what you began. These are some of their Commandments, and if we did not keep them any better than God's, mercy shown to the ignorant could no longer be ours.


Buried with Books

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks, edd. Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1951), p. 254 (on Tennyson):
I see they packed the volume of Shakespeare that he had near him when he died in a little tin box and buried it with him. If they had to bury it they should have either not packed it at all, or, at the least, in a box of silver-gilt. But his friends should have taken it out of the bed when they saw the end was near. It was not necessary to emphasize the fact that the ruling passion for posing was strong with him in death. If I am reading, say, Ally Sloper's Half Holiday up to my last conscious hours, I trust my friends will take it out and put it in the waste-paper basket when they see I have no further use for it. If, however, they insist on burying it with me, say in an an old sardine-box, let them do it at their own risk, and may God remember it against them in that day.
An 18th century example is John Underwood, buried with books according to his own instructions in the following manner: "under his Head was placed Sanadon's Horace, at his Feet Bentley's Milton; in his right Hand a small Greek Testament, with this Inscription in Golden Letters, εἴ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ, J.U. in left Hand a little Edition of Horace, with this Inscription, Musis Amicus, J.U. and Bentley's Horace under his Arse."

For a 16th century example from the Cistercian monastery at Bebenhausen, see Christina Vossler-Wolf, "Das Buch im Grab: Konservierung und Interpretation einer außergewöhnlichen Grabbeigabe," Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Archäologie des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit 23 (2011) 105-112.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Let Them Eat Cake

Menu for State Dinner in Honor of His Excellency François Hollande, President of the French Republic, The White House, February 11, 2014:

First Course
American Osetra Caviar
Fingerling Potato Velouté, Quail Eggs, Crisped Chive Potatoes

Second Course
"The Winter Garden Salad"
Petite Mixed Radish, Baby Carrots, Merlot Lettuce
Red Wine Vinaigrette

Main Course
Dry-aged Rib Eye Beef
Jasper Hill Farm Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster
Mushrooms, Braised Chard

Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache
Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines

Morlet "La Proportion Doree" [sic, read Dorée] 2011
Napa Valley, California
Chester - Kidder Red Blend 2009
Columbia Valley, Washington
Thibaut-Jannison "Blanc de Chardonnay"
Monticello, Virginia

Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (tr. C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin):
And at night they did not dine in the hotel, where, hidden springs of electricity flooding the great dining-room with light, it became as it were an immense and wonderful aquarium against whose wall of glass the working population of Balbec, the fishermen and also the tradesmen's families, clustering invisibly in the outer darkness, pressed their faces to watch, gently floating upon the golden eddies within, the luxurious life of its occupants, a thing as extraordinary to the poor as the life of strange fishes or molluscs (an important social question, this: whether the wall of glass will always protect the wonderful creatures at their feasting, whether the obscure folk who watch them hungrily out of the night will not break in some day to gather them from their aquarium and devour them).
Related post: The Blessings of Plenty.


A Hideous Thing

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), My Heart Laid Bare VI (tr. T.R. Smith):
To be a useful man has always seemed to me a hideous thing.

Être un homme utile m'a paru toujours quelque chose de bien hideux.


Looking Down on Others

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), pp. 1032-1033 (Z 2441-2442), with endnote on p. 2240:
Never is someone so willingly named, or heard named, as the person who has a recognized defect, either physical or moral, and is called by the name of the defect. So-and-so the deaf fellow, the cripple, the hunchback, the madman. Indeed, these people are ordinarily called only by these names, or if we call them by their name when they are not present it's very rare that the other name isn't added. In calling them or hearing them called thus, men seem to themselves to be superior, they enjoy the image of the defect, they feel and in a certain sense remind themselves about their own superiority, self-love is flattered and gratified by it. Add man's eternal and natural hatred toward man which feeds on [2442] and delights in these shameful epithets, also when they are directed toward friends or people who do not matter to him. And these natural causes give rise to the fact that the man with a defect, as named above, almost changes his name to that of his defect, and the others who give him the same name, in their heart of hearts intend and aim without thinking about it to remove him from the number of their fellow men, or place him below their species, a tendency that is proper (and as far as society is concerned, first and foremost) to every social individual. I happened to see someone with a defect, a man of the common people, talking and joking with people about his condition, and they were calling him only by the name of his defect, so that I was never able to hear his own name. And if I have any knowledge of the human heart, believe me, I understood clearly that each of them, every time he called that man contemptuously by that name, felt an inner joy, and a spiteful satisfaction in his own superiority to that fellow creature, and not so much because he was free of that defect as because, being free of it, he could see it and mock it and reproach it in that creature. And, no matter how frequent that epithet was in their mouths, I felt, I knew, that it never came to their lips without an external echo of that internal sense of judgment, of triumph, and of enjoyment.1 (13 May 1822.)

1 This autobiographical anecdote was added to the margins of the manuscript on Z 2442-44 and 2449-50. It may therefore postdate "Ultimo canto di Saffo" (May 1822), where Leopardi expresses Sappho's grief for her "unlovely form" (l. 54, trans. Galassi). In a letter to his sister Paolina of 18 May 1830 (Epistolario, p. 1731), Leopardi describes being called "that hunchback Leopardi." Cf. Z 3058-59 and note.
I know almost no Italian, so it is with trepidation that I suggest "even when they are directed toward friends or people who do not matter to him," rather than "also when they are directed toward friends or people who do not matter to him," as a translation of "anche verso gli amici o gl'indifferenti."

The Italian:
Non si nomina mai più volentieri, nè più volentieri si sente nominare in altro modo chiunque ha qualche riconosciuto difetto o corporale o morale, che pel nome dello stesso difetto. Il sordo, il zoppo, il gobbo, il matto tale. Anzi queste persone non sono ordinariamente chiamate se non con questi nomi, o chiamandole pel nome loro fuor della loro presenza, è ben raro che non vi si ponga quel tale aggiunto. Chiamandole o udendole chiamar così, pare agli uomini d'esser superiori a questi tali, godono dell'immagine del loro difetto, sentono e si ammoniscono in certo modo della propria superiorità, l'amor proprio n'è lusingato e se ne compiace. Aggiungete l'odio eterno e naturale dell'uomo verso l'uomo che si pasce [2442] e si diletta di questi titoli ignominiosi, anche verso gli amici o gl'indifferenti. E da queste ragioni naturali nasce che l'uomo difettoso com’è detto di sopra, muta quasi il suo nome in quello del suo difetto, e gli altri che così lo chiamano intendono e mirano indistintamente nel fondo del cuor loro a levarlo dal numero de' loro simili, o a metterlo al di sotto della loro specie: tendenza propria (e quanto alla società, prima e somma) d'ogn'individuo sociale. Io mi sono trovato a vedere uno di persona difettosa, uomo del volgo, trattenersi e giocare con gente della sua condizione, e questa non chiamarlo mai con altro nome che del suo difetto, tanto che il suo proprio nome non l'ho mai potuto sentire. E s'io ho veruna cognizione del cuore umano, mi si dee credere com'io comprendeva chiaramente che ciascuno di loro, ogni volta che chiamava quell'uomo disprezzatamente con quel nome, provava una gioia interna, e una compiacenza maligna della propria superiorità sopra quella creatura sua simile, e non tanto dell'esser libero da quel difetto, quanto del vederlo e poterlo deridere e rimproverare in quella creatura, essendone libero esso. E per quanto frequente fosse nelle loro bocche quell'appellazione, io sentiva e conosceva ch'ella non usciva mai dalle loro labbra senza un tuono esterno e un senso e giudizio interno di trionfo e di gusto. (13. Maggio 1822.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014



James Lee-Milne (1908-1997), diary entry for November 19, 1972, in A Mingled Measure: Diaries 1953-1972 (London: John Murray, 1994), p. 300:
Sarah [Churchill] used to accompany him [her father, Winston Churchill] on his walks round the estate [Chartwell]. He enjoyed scratching the pigs' backs. He said to her, 'Dogs look up to man. Cats look down on man. But pigs accept him as one of themselves.'

George Morland (1763-1804), A Boy Looking into a Pig Sty

Hat tip: Ian Jackson (who supplied the material in brackets).


Reading Quickly or Slowly

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Marginalia, in his Complete Works, Vol. XVI (Marginalia. Eureka. Bibliography), ed. James A. Harrison (New York: Society of English and French Literature, 1902), pp. 13-14:
I have seen many computations respecting the greatest amount of erudition attainable by an individual in his life-time; but these computations are falsely based, and fall infinitely beneath the truth. It is true that, in general, we retain, we remember to available purpose, scarcely one-hundredth part of what we read; yet there are minds which not only retain all receipts, but keep them at compound interest forever. Again:—were every man supposed to read out, he could read, of course, very little, even in half a century; for, in such case, each individual word must be dwelt upon in some degree. But, in reading to ourselves, at the ordinary rate of what is called "light reading," we scarcely touch one word in ten. And, even physically considered, knowledge breeds knowledge, as gold gold; for he who reads really much, finds his capacity to read increase in geometrical ratio. The helluo librorum will but glance at the page which detains the ordinary reader some minutes; and the difference in the absolute reading (its uses considered), will be in favor of the helluo, who will have winnowed the matter of which the tyro mumbled both the seeds and the chaff. A deep-rooted and strictly continuous habit of reading will, with certain classes of intellect, result in an instinctive and seemingly magnetic appreciation of a thing written; and now the student reads by pages just as other men by words. Long years to come, with a careful analysis of the mental process, may even render this species of appreciation a common thing. It may be taught in the schools of our descendants of the tenth or twentieth generation. It may become the method of the mob of the eleventh or twenty-first. And should these matters come to pass—as they will—there will be in them no more legitimate cause for wonder than there is, to-day, in the marvel that, syllable by syllable, men comprehend what, letter by letter, I now trace upon this page.
When I was a young boy in school, speed reading was a popular educational fad. President Kennedy was one of its most enthusiastic advocates. We were actually taught, in a systematic way, techniques for reading as rapidly as possible. Fortunately, I've forgotten most of what I learned. Reading quickly is like bolting your food. You can't appreciate or savor what you gulp down in a hurry.

In the preface to Daybreak (Morgenröte, tr. R.J. Hollingdale), Nietzsche says that the essence of philology is reading slowly:
It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist, perhaps I am a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading....For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow—it is a goldsmith's art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book:—this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers.

Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826-1889), The Reader

Thanks to Thus Blogged Anderson for drawing my attention to Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées 69 Brunschvicg (tr. Roger Ariew):
When we read too quickly or too slowly, we understand nothing.

Quand on lit trop vite, ou trop doucement, on n'entend rien.


Understanding Pre-Christian Religious Attitudes

K.J. Dover (1920-2010), in Maurice Platnauer, ed., Fifty Years (and Twelve) of Classical Scholarship, 2nd ed. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968), pp. 127-128 (footnotes omitted):
To understand pre-Christian religious attitudes requires a great imaginative effort, and those who make it are commonly regarded as impostors by those who cannot. The intimate association of the gods with the fabric of ordinary Greek life is something which might be better understood by a Papuan than by a bishop, and perhaps best of all by the medieval Christian, whose humour was full of casual blasphemy and prompt to interweave the comic and the tremendous. The fact is that the Greek gods had human pleasures and understood laughter; at the right time and place they could take a joke.

Monday, February 10, 2014



Peter Bierbaumer, "Real and Not-So-Real Plant-Names in Old English Glosses," in C.P. Biggam, ed., From Earth to Art: The Many Aspects of the Plant-World in Anglo-Saxon England (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2003), pp. 153-160 (at 155):
The study of Old English plant-names is, after all, what we call in German an Orchideenfach (a very specialized subject without much social relevance) ...
Long live the study of such subjects.

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885),
Der Kaktusliebhaber
(The Cactus Enthusiast)


Barking Animals

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), More Trivia (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921), pp. 127-128:
I remember how charmed I was with these new acquaintances, to whose house I had been taken that afternoon to call. I remember the gardens through which we sauntered, with peaches ripening on the sunny walls; I remember the mellow light on the old portraits in the drawing-room, the friendly atmosphere and tranquil voices; and how, as the quiet stream of talk flowed on, one subject after another was pleasantly mirrored on its surface;—till, at a chance remark, there was a sudden change and darkening, an angry swirl, as if a monster were raising its head above the waters.

What was it about, the dreadful disputation into which we were plunged, in spite of desperate efforts to clutch at other subjects? Was it Tariff Reform or Table-rapping—Bacon and Shakespeare, Disestablishment, perhaps—or Anti-Vivisection? What did any of us know or really care about it? What force, what fury drove us into saying the stupid, intolerant, denunciatory things we said; that made us feel we would rather die than not say them? How could a group of humane, polite and intelligent people be so suddenly transformed into barking animals?

Why do we let these Abstractions and implacable Dogmatisms take possession of us, glare at each other through our eyes, and fight their futile, frenzied conflicts in our persons? Life without the rancours and ever-recurring battles of these Bogeys might be so simple, friendly, affectionate and pleasant!


The Earliest Patent-Law Known?

Phylarchus, quoted by Athenaeus 12.521 c-d (discussing a law supposedly passed by the citizens of Sybaris; tr. Charles Burton Gulick, with his footnote):
Again, if any caterer or cook invented a dish of his own which was especially choice, it was his privilege that no one else but the inventor himself should adopt the use of it before the lapse of a year, in order that the first man to invent a dish might possess the right of manufacture during that period, so as to encourage others to excel in eager competition with similar inventions.c

c The earliest patent-law known, Cichorius in Journ. f. Nationalökon., 1922, 46-48.
Journ. in the footnote is incorrect. The full, correct citation is C. Cichorius, "Ein Patentgesetz aus dem griechischen Altertum," Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik 118 (1922) 46-48.

The Greek:
εἰ δέ τις τῶν ὀψοποιῶν ἢ μαγείρων ἴδιον εὕροι βρῶμα καὶ περιττόν, ἐξουσίαν μὴ εἶναι χρήσασθαι τούτῳ ἕτερον πρὸ ἐνιαυτοῦ ἀλλ᾽ αὐτῷ τῷ εὑρόντι, τὸν χρόνον τοῦτον ὅπως ὁ πρῶτος εὑρὼν καὶ τὴν ἐργασίαν ἔχῃ, πρὸς τὸ τοὺς ἄλλους φιλοπονοῦντας αὑτοὺς ὑπερβάλλεσθαι τοῖς τοιούτοις.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


About 3,000 Pages

Michael Dirda, "Lane Cooper's lessons," The New Criterion (February 2014):
Lane Cooper grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where his father taught Greek at Rutgers. Back in the nineteenth century when Jacob Cooper applied to Yale, he was naturally asked how much Greek he knew. The poor farm boy from southern Ohio replied, "About 3,000 pages." The admissions officer answered, "You mean 3,000 lines." No, Jacob Cooper meant 3,000 pages—he had read virtually the entire corpus of Greek literature on his own while, as his proud son later said, "wrenching a livelihood for his mother out of a reluctant hilly farm."
See Lane Cooper, Evolution and Repentance: Mixed Essays and Addresses on Aristotle, Plato, and Dante, with Papers on Matthew Arnold and Wordsworth (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1935), pp. 55-56.


Bread and Water Again

Euripides, fragment 892 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Why, what do mortals need but just two things, Demeter's grain and running water to drink—things which are at hand and were made to give us nourishment? But their abundance does not satisfy us; we are choosy and hunt for ways of contriving different foods.

ἐπεὶ τί δεῖ βροτοῖσι πλὴν δυοῖν μόνον,
Δήμητρος ἀκτῆς πώματός θ' ὑδρηχόου,
ἅπερ πάρεστι καὶ πέφυχ' ἡμᾶς τρέφειν;
ὧν οὐκ ἀπαρκεῖ πλησμονή· τρυφῇ δέ τοι
ἄλλων ἐδεστῶν μηχανὰς θηρεύομεν.
Related post: Bread and Water.


The Scarecrow

E. Keppel Bennett (1887-1958), "The Scarecrow," in Cambridge Poets 1914-1920. An Anthology Compiled by Edward Davison (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd., 1920), p. 20:
The plaything of the winds, I stand; a jest
For idle children who draw near to stare
Or, mocking, pluck the sordid rags I wear:
The farmer's faded coat and filthy vest.
Of all my former honours dispossessed
I scarce avail from fruit and corn to scare
The thievish birds, contented if none dare
Pluck out my straw-stuffed limbs to line his nest.

Yet once my altar lacked no offerings:
The first fruits of the fields and vineyards round
Were mine by right; in Spring my brows were bound
With painted flowers; and at my foot the sod
Drank the hot blood of goats; for with such things
Men honoured me, Priapus, as a god.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


Winter Rains

R.C. Trevelyan, "Winter Rains," in Cambridge Poets 1914-1920. An Anthology Compiled by Edward Davison (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd., 1920), p. 189:
When after weeks of winter rains
The foggy air hangs chill and wet,
When misted are the window-panes,
And walls and sheets and cupboards sweat;
When chilblains itch in every shoe,
And the mind's furnished chambers too
Are damp and sodden through and through;

When meals are glum and shoulders ache,
No match will strike nor firewood blaze,
Fiddlestrings squeak and tempers break,
No robin sings and no hen lays;
When paths are pools, and noses pearled,
And cats in kitchen fenders curled
Dream of a happier, drier world;

Then suddenly, when least we think,
A bright wind breaks the mist, and there
The sun looks out above the brink
Of piled up clouds, stair over stair:
Glad then at heart are all live things,
Both small and great, on feet or wings,
Birds, boys and beggars, cats and kings.


Astronomy Lecture

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," Leaves of Grass:
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


No Care for Nature

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), "Huckleberries," Collected Essays and Poems (New York: The Library of America, 2001), pp. 468-501 (at 497):
Most men, it appears to me, do not care for Nature, and would sell their share in all her beauty, for as long as they may live, for a stated and not very large sum.


A Sound Appalling

Robert Bridges (1844-1930), Shorter Poems (London: Geo. Bell & Sons, 1890), pp. 73-74 (Book IV, No. XII, untitled):
The hill pines were sighing,
O'ercast and chill was the day:
A mist in the valley lying
Blotted the pleasant May.

But deep in the glen's bosom
Summer slept in the fire
Of the odorous gorse-blossom
And the hot scent of the brier.

A ribald cuckoo clamoured,
And out of the copse the stroke
Of the iron axe that hammered
The iron heart of the oak.

Anon a sound appalling,
As a hundred years of pride
Crashed, in the silence falling;
And the shadowy pine-trees sighed.

Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), Cutting of Wood


Friday, February 07, 2014


Tired of the Town

[Addison Peale Russell (1826-1912)], A Club of One: Passages from the Note-Book of a Man who Might Have Been Sociable, 9th ed. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), pp. 69-70:
I am tired of the town,—man made it; I pine for the country,—that God made. (Pope for authority.) Oh, the noises, the noises of the eternal Babel! The rattling milk-carts; the lumbering ice-wagons; the cries of the street-venders; the jingle of the bells of the horse-cars, day and night, that always seem to stop just before my door; the squeaking hand-organs; the infernal brass-bands; the roar and roar of multitudinous wheels, wheels; the whirr of the locomotive, like a hurricane,—thank Heaven, several blocks away; the dashing state carriages till far into the early morning, when wise people should be asleep,—at least be left undisturbed; all together, enough to hammer the brain into a jelly, and destroy every vestige of humanity in the soul. How any one should be in love with the town is past my comprehension. Johnson thought that when a man tired of London he was tired of his life. Macaulay was alike infatuated with London. Jekyll used to say that, if compelled to live in the country, he would have the road before his door paved like a street, and hire a hackney-coach to drive up and down all day. Lamb had a like aversion to the the country, and pronounced a garden the primitive prison, till man, with Promethean felicity and boldness, luckily sinned himself out of it. For my part, I hate the town cordially, and—at times—everything in it.


Enough for the Study of a Lifetime

Anonymous, in The North British Review Vol. XXX, No. LX (May 1859) 310:
When a friend complained to Linnaeus that Sweden did not afford scope enough for the successful study of nature, the great naturalist laid his hand on a bit of the moss on which they were reclining, and said, "Under this palm is material for the study of a lifetime."
This is the earliest source I can find for this oft-repeated anecdote, but there must be an earlier one, probably in a foreign language.

Related posts:


Confrontation with a Customs Officer

Sheila M. Wagg, German at the University of Edinburgh, 1894-1994, an illustrated history to mark the centenary of the Department of German and the establishment of the teaching of European languages in the Faculty of Arts (Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, 1999), pp. 218-219:
The unforgettable Dominica Legge, a legend in her own lifetime, generated a special kind of happiness and bonhomie in her dealings with others. Although she looked formidable, she was in reality a kind and sensitive person who treated students and secretaries alike with respect and affection. Her two sisters had equally exotic names — Pompilia and Mireio; their brother had to be content with Harry. Many anecdotes have been told about her, and I am particularly fond of the story of her confrontation with a Customs Officer when she was carrying some books into the U.K. from a sojourn abroad. The officer, not well versed in Anglo-Norman, asked her if it was pornographic literature she was trying to bring into the country. Dominica drew herself up to her full height (which was considerable) and shrieked at him, 'Young man, have you ever heard of a pornographic book with footnotes?!'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


What Have They Decided?

Gilles Ménage, Menagiana ou Les Bons Mots et Remarques Critiques, Historiques, morales & d'érudition, Vol. II (Paris: Delaulne, 1729), p. 387 (my translation):
The first time Casaubon came to the Sorbonne (it hadn't yet been rebuilt), someone told him, "Here is a room in which disputations have taken place for four hundred years." He replied, "What have they decided?"

La premiere fois que Casaubon vint en Sorbonne (elle n'avoit pas encore été rebâtie), on lui dit: Voila une sale où il y a quatre cens ans qu'on dispute. Il dit: Qu'a-t-on décidé?

Update: Michael Hendry wonders if Casaubon might have been alluding to Cicero, De Legibus 1.53.


Two and Two

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher K 303 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that two times two equals four.

Zweifle an allem wenigstens einmal, und wäre es auch der Satz: zweimal 2 ist 4.
Tom Moore's Diary, ed. J.B. Priestly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925), p. 133 (May 27, 1828):
Breakfasted at Rogers's, to meet [James Fenimore] Cooper, the American: Littleton and Lady Sarah, and Luttrell, also of the party. Cooper very agreeable. Anecdote of the disputatious man: "Why, it is as plain as that two and two make four." "But I deny that too; for two and two make twenty-two."
George Eliot, Adam Bede, chapter LIII:
"As for other things, I daresay she's like the rest o' the women—thinks two and two 'll come to make five, if she cries and bothers enough about it."
A.E. Housman, Last Poems, XXXV (final stanza):
To think that two and two are four
  And neither five nor three
The heart of man has long been sore
  And long 'tis like to be.
H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Knopf, 1949; rpt. New York: Random House, 1982), pp. 13-14:
A metaphysician is one who, when you remark that twice two makes four, demands to know what you mean by twice, what by two, what by makes, and what by four. For asking such questions metaphysicians are supported in oriental luxury in the universities, and respected as educated and intelligent men.
Albert Camus, The Plague:
But there always comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death.

Mais il vient toujours une heure dans l'histoire où celui qui ose dire que deux et deux font quatre est puni de mort.



La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), Maxims 93 (tr. J.W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell):
Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that they can no longer set bad examples.

Les vieillards aiment à donner de bons préceptes, pour se consoler de n'être plus en état de donner de mauvais exemples.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


The Old Adam

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Prehistoric Eyes," The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 61-67 (at 67):
[W]e are on the moon studying geology and cosmology while acting, as nations and as individuals, with a savagery and brutality that may not even have been known (certainly not possible) to primitive man. Man, it would seem, does not evolve; he accumulates. His fund of advantages over nature and over the savage within is rich indeed, but nothing of the old Adam has been lost; our savagery has perhaps increased in meanness and fury; it stands out ever more terribly against a modern background.


Cheerful, and Grateful, and Gay

Charles Morris (1745-1838), excerpt from "The Pincushion," in Lyra Urbanica; Or, The Social Effusions of the Celebrated Captain Charles Morris, of the Late Life-Guards, Vol. I (London: Richard Bentley, 1840), pp. 280-284 (at 282-283):
But whence come these scourgers and stripers?
    Or what can such malice entice?
Do the Methodists send out these vipers?
    Or the gang for Suppression of Vice?
Shall these sin-sadden'd hearts of sour leaven,
    Deep hid in their sanctify'd dough,
Dare libel the blessings of Heaven,
    And load us with curses below?

In the list of the devil's vile engines,
    Your sanctify'd imp is the worst;
To blast all your joys with his vengeance,
    He tells you, and hopes, you'll be curst.
Most of all Envy's fiends that would hurt ye,
    The blasphemous quack we despise,
Who preaches on earth in mask'd virtue,
    And sins with bare face to the skies.

Of all scoundrels that shame human nature,
    The hypocrite's held in most hate:
The world ever flogs him with satire,
    And Heaven still tortures his fate.
But these saints for hell's service so willing,
    These righteous, in blasphemy clad,
Are recruits of the devil's own drilling;
    And the devil take care of the squad!

No sour-soul'd wretch, with his preaching,
    Shall deaden the glow in my breast,
Or blight Nature's beauties by teaching
    That Life still in sables is dress'd.
I live to be pleased with Creation,
    Feel cheerful, and grateful, and gay;
Not fret and blaspheme in vexation,
    And snarl like a dog through my day.

No!—I'm not to be touch'd by their venom,
    They can't mix their gall with my mirth;
I lash 'em in songs, when I pen 'em,
    And shun 'em as reptiles on earth.
Give me souls that take joy with devotion,
    Where hearts Heaven's blessings repay;
And may poison be ever the potion
    Of saints who would poison our day.



James Henry (1798-1876), Poems Chiefly Philosophical (Dresden: C.C. Meinhold and Sons, 1856), p. 129 (untitled; accents omitted):
Dire Ambition up hill toiling,
Straining every nerve and sinew,
Sweating, panting, taking no rest,
Dire Ambition, listen to me.

Highest climbers get the worst falls,
On the hill-top storms blow fiercest,
Lightning oftenest strikes the summits,
Dire Ambition, turn and come down.

In the valley here it's sheltered,
Easy, safe and sure and pleasant;
On those steep heights there's scarce footing,
I grow dizzy to look at thee.

Higher still thou climb'st and higher,
Lendest no ear, look'st not once down;
Almost in the clouds I see thee,
Far above the reach of my words.

Fare thee well then — only fall not —
And as happy be above there,
If thou canst, as I below here
In the calm, sequestered valley.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Full Employment

Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964), Flowering Earth (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1939; rpt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 8:
As the big smoky cities rolled like unlovely beads off the thread of the tracks, I thought how everywhere, in Elizabeth and Trenton, in Wilmington and Baltimore, young men, and old, and women, were all at work, where those lights burning by day pricked through the rain. All holding jobs and grateful for them as a punished boy for supper thrust through the door.


Not College Material

Francis Thynne (1544-1608), "The vnapt not to be forced to learninge," Emblemes and Epigrames, ed. F.J. Furnivall (London: Early English Text Society, 1876), p. 57:
To Salamanca yf thow send an Asse,
to Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, or dowaye, [Douai]
or that by travell to farthest lands hee passe,
or in the princes Court longe tyme doe staye:
yf, when he went, he were an Asse, noe art
will make him horse, for felde, for waie, for cart.
Then spare your cost, yf nature give not witt,
to send yowr sonns vnto the learned scooles,
for to the same, yf nature make not fitt,
doe what you cann, they still shall prove but fooles;
then tourne ech witt to that which nature will,
els fondlie thow thy sonne and cost dost spill.


Quiet and Rest

Francis Thynne (1544-1608), "Quiet and Rest," Emblemes and Epigrames, ed. F.J. Furnivall (London: Early English Text Society, 1876), p. 96:
As wearie bodie doth restore his strength with rest,
as fertill soyle sometimes vntild doth prove the best,
As laboringe beastes, the ox, the horse, must quiet haue,
as toylinge daie, the restefull night doth dulie crave,
As bowe still bent, in time is weake
    and looseth strength,
As Sommers flowers in Winters rootes
    doe reste at length,
Soe must the rulinge minde, the seate
    where reasone reynes,
with quiet recreate it self
    from former paynes.
ffor what wants interchanged rest
    will weare awaye,
And restles paines, both witt and wealth,
    doth soone decaye.
Then cease, thow wearie muse, allwaies
    to beate thy brayne
And weare thy paynefull hand,
    which never reaped gaine;
Since all thy sweating toyle finds but
    such hard event
As damned Sisiphus,
    most bitter punishement,
Wherbye thy goulden tyme
    thow thriftelesse dost consume,
Like Gebers Cooke, to waste thy wealth
    in Ayerye fume.
Geber was a writer on alchemy, and so Gebers Cooke is an alchemist.


The Desire to Work on the Earth

Edward Shanks (1892-1953), My England (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1938), pp. 69-71:
Soon it was there, rows of small houses, all alike as peas in a pod. Or more like, since there are generally small differences among the peas in any pod, and here there were no differences at all. That was the point which we all chose for comment and I heard, and enriched, a number of discussions of the increasing standardization of mankind. One of our wits speculated on how long it would take a man who had strayed into his neighbor's house in a fog to find out his mistake: the general impression was that he never would. (I believe there is a funny story on this theme.)

Not long afterwards I was saved from the temptation to go on being superior by the fact that I ceased to travel on that line. When I saw those houses again they had been inhabited for two or three years, and I felt a little ashamed of our easy generalizations. There was a row of twenty gardens backing on to the railway and among them differences had been established as wide and as many as space allowed. Two or three (but not more) were neglected weed patches and cat-runs characteristic in their own way. Each of the others was a picture of enthusiastic individual effort. One was laid out as a formal garden of the latter-day type with true-lovers' knots in crazy-paving paths. Another consisted of hardly anything but a badminton court with the grass well worn on both sides of the net. In a third an elderly shirt-sleeved gentleman was on his knees apparently removing weeds one by one from a lawn which, to the eyes of a watcher in a train, looked as though it would have done credit to the courts in any Cambridge college. A fourth was vegetables from fence to kitchen door. A fifth contained a fine, rather austerely arranged display of azaleas. A sixth was simply a tangle of bright-colored flowers like a cottage garden in the remotest village.

This was an instructive example of the English desire to work on the earth whenever and wherever possible. It is strange that it should have survived the period in which we became the first of the great industrial nations, the first to maintain a huge population, wholly divorced from the soil, on food brought from overseas. This is proof of the strength of the instinct. If it could survive that first shock of industrialism and begin to manifest itself again in our own times, then it must be strong enough to fight through the difficulties which its own renaissance has created.

The Englishman is powerfully moved, whenever the opportunity offers, to make a garden of his land.

Monday, February 03, 2014



Edward Shanks (1892-1953), "Continuity," The Queen of China and Other Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919), p. 32:
Long after we have ceased to be
The sun will light in bush and tree
And shine unchanged; the high turf hill
Shall stand up in beauty still;
And all the valleys that we knew
Put on again the summer's hue,
When we are gone, when we are gone,
And are what green things feed upon.


Thorn Hedges

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Journal I," The Hunter Gracchus and Other Papers on Literature and Art (Washington: Counterpoint, 1997), pp. 213-222 (at 214):
To sit in the sun and read Columella on how to plant a thorn hedge is a pleasure I had to teach myself. No, I was teaching myself something else, and the thorn hedge came, wisely, to take its place. They're longer lasting than stone walls and have an ecology all their own. Birds nest in them and snails use them for a world. Hedgehogs, rabbits, snakes, spiders. Brier rose, dog thorn. There are some in England still standing from Roman times.
See Columella 11.3.3-7.

Sunday, February 02, 2014


Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast

Athenaeus 14.623 f-824 a (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
To quote The Harp-Singer of Theophilus: "A mighty treasure, good sirs, and a constant one, is music for all who have learned it and are educated." For indeed it trains character, and tames the hot-tempered and those whose opinions clash. The Pythagorean Cleinias, for example, as Chamaeleon of Pontus records, whose conduct and character were exemplary, would always take his lyre and play on it whenever it happened that he was exasperated to the point of anger. And in answer to those who inquired the reason he would say, "I am calming myself down."

μέγας γάρ, ὦ μακάριοι, κατὰ τὸν Θεοφίλου Κιθαρῳδόν,
θησαυρός ἐστιν καὶ βέβαιος μουσικὴ
ἅπασι τοῖς μαθοῦσι παιδευθεῖσί τε.
καὶ γὰρ τὰ ἤθη παιδεύει καὶ τοὺς θυμοειδεῖς καὶ τὰς γνώμας διαφόρους καταπραΰνει. Κλεινίας γοῦν ὁ Πυθαγόρειος, ὡς Χαμαιλέων ὁ Ποντικὸς ἱστορεῖ, καὶ τῷ βίῳ καὶ τοῖς ἤθεσιν διαφέρων, εἴ ποτε συνέβαινεν χαλεπαίνειν αὐτὸν δι᾽ ὀργήν, ἀναλαμβάνων τὴν λύραν ἐκιθάριζεν. πρὸς δὲ τοὺς ἐπιζητοῦντας τὴν αἰτίαν ἔλεγεν 'πραΰνομαι.'
See M.L. West, "Music Therapy in Antiquity" Hellenica: Selected Papers on Greek Literature and Thought, Vol. III: Philosophy, Music and Metre, Literary Byways, Varia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 245-261.


A Greek Auto-Antonym

Definitions of ἀπεσθίω in Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ):
LSJ s.v. cite comic poets quoted by Athenaeus 14.649 b-c, but not Athenaeus himself, who emphasizes the contrary meanings of the verb (14.649 a-b, tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
"There you have in full, my noble bursar Ulpian, my account of the kopté; I advise you to bite it off." So he without delay picked it up and began to eat it. They all burst out laughing at this, and Democritus said: "But I did not tell you to eat it, noble word-chaser, I told you rather not to eat it..."

'ἀπέχεις, ὦ καλέ μου λογιστὰ Οὐλπιανέ, τὴν κοπτήν· ἧς συμβουλεύω σοι ἀπεσθίειν.' καὶ ὃς οὐδὲν μελλήσας ἀνελόμενος ἤσθιεν. γελασάντων δὲ πάντων ἔφη ὁ Δημόκριτος· 'ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐσθίειν σοι προσέταξα, καλὲ ὀνοματοθήρα, ἀλλὰ μὴ ἐσθίειν...'
The online Diccionario Griego-Español also doesn't cite Athenaeus for this word.


Saturday, February 01, 2014


A Waste of Good Oil

Ralph Waldo Emerson, letter to Frederic Henry Hedge (March 14, 1836):
To write a very little takes a great deal of time. So that if one indulges in that species of dissipation he will have little to show for his solid days. And there are not many greater misfortunes to peace of mind than to have keen susceptibility to the beautiful in composition and just to lack that additional wit which suffices to create it. So shall a man weary himself and spend good oil in vain attempts to carve Apollos which all turn out scarecrows.


Nothing Else To Do

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (March 9, 1839):
Byron says of Jack Bunting, "He knew not what to say, and so he swore." I may say it of our preposterous use of books, He knew not what to do, and so he read.


To Eat

A.J. Liebling (1904-1963), Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (New York: North Point Press, 1986), p. 108:
I use the verb "to eat" here to denote a selective activity, as opposed to the passive acceptance and regular renewal of nourishment, learned in infancy. An automobile receiving fuel at a filling station or an infant at the breast cannot be said to eat, nor can a number of people at any time in their lives.
Id., p. 113:
The eater's apprenticeship, though less arduous, must be as earnest as the cook's.

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